The charm of this opaque, golden brown quartz lies in its fascinating light-shifting effect. When sun rays seep into its silky gold belts, they shimmer, move as it were, and reflect them. It has the gleaming splendor of a cat’s eye. In case abysmal blue tones overrule its yellow browns, the gemstone is given the name of hawk’s eye.
DID YOU KNOW?
When held up into the sunlight, this gemstone is characterized by a luminosity so enchanting it resembles a tiger’s gaze soaking up daylight. This cat’s eye effect is called chatoyancy in the field of gemology. For a stone to show this effect, it is best to be shaped and polished into a so-called cabochon.
Did you know?
Tiger’s eye is mainly sourced in South Africa and Australia, but can also be found in China, Namibia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
DID YOU KNOW?
AN EYE FOR AN EYE
Some believe this stone wards off the evil eye.
One of the exquisite features of tiger’s eye is its excellent wearability. It has therefore always been useful as both an ornamental and a lapidary rock. In 19th-century Japan a traditional case for holding small objects, the inro, was sometimes beautified with tiger’s eye inlay. In the Roaring Twenties, art deco brought cameo rings with the face of a Roman soldier carved into tiger’s eye into style.
THE ISLAMIC TRADITION
Little has been written on the use of tiger’s eye in the Islamic tradition. What we would like to share instead is what we know about tigers and their smaller-sized relatives, domestic cats. The latter have appropriated a special place for themselves within our tradition. How could they not?
When in Mughal paintings, the Bengal tiger often appears as the star of the show. Born Zahir al-Din Muhammad, the founder of the Mughal Empire and first Emperor of the Mughal dynasty in the Indian subcontinent, was even nicknamed Babur. It is said that the name was derived from the Persian word babr, meaning "tiger.” Gazi Pir, a Bengali Muslim who lived in the 12th of 13th century in Bengal during the time of the spread of Islam, was known for his capability to overpower dangerous animals. The Gazi Scroll depicts his life with 54 paintings from around 1800, and even shows him riding a tiger.
THE ISLAMIC TRADITION
From the famed al-Azhar Mosque to the Holy Mosques of Mecca and Madina, from al-Aqsa Mosque to any mosque in Istanbul—when you are spending time in a mosque chances are high you will be in whiskered presence. From the early days of Islam on, cats have kept the company of many. Scholars have written odes about their cat companions, praising them for protecting their precious books from being nibbled on by mice. Often compared to dhikr, a cat’s purring was turned to in many early Islamic hospitals as part of the healing process.
It is said that one day, the 11th-century grammarian Saʿid ibn Baabshaad was sharing food with his friends on the roof of a Cairene mosque. They gave some morsels to a cat who minced by, only for her to come back for more time and time again. They discovered she would rush her catch to the adjacent house. On its roof, she carefully placed the morsels in front of a blind cat that was sitting there. Deeply touched by this divine providence, the scholar gave up the entirety of his belongings and lived in complete poverty, trusting in God until he died.
Shams ibn Tulun al-Hanafi designated a special chapter for prophetic narrations related to cats, called Explanation of the Secrets Found in What Has Been Narrated about Cats. Some believe the Beloved Prophet had a favorite cat, Muʿizza, but this has never been authenticated. It is narrated that He enjoyed the company of cats, and encouraged people to treat them with good care and mercy, as was the case for other animals as well. In this regard the 13th-century Mamluk sultan al-Zahir Baybars set up a waqf, an endowment, of a cat garden close to his mosque where Cairene street cats would be fed. This ensured they were taken care of for centuries. In days gone by, it was not uncommon to see places where street cats and dogs could drink water in the Egyptian capital’s main squares. One day, the 18th-century Maliki scholar Ahmad al-Dardir was teaching at al-Azhar Mosque, when a cat came wandering in between the students. One of them roughly pushed it away. Deeply saddened by this, Imam Dardir got up and brought the cat next to him, petting it. He gave it some food of his own and held it in his lap. From the next day on, whenever he came to teach he would give the feline something to eat, and it was soon joined by many other cats who would approach the Imam and sit at his feet.